At once dazzled and intrigued by the hit musical Hamilton, Bexley Elementary fifth-grader Lucy Butler penned an inspired fan letter to the United States’ founding document that earned her top honors in the Eighth Annual Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Constitution Essay Contest.
“Hamilton is my favorite musical, but before I was introduced to it, I really didn’t think about the
U.S. Constitution,” 10-year-old Lucy wrote. “I didn’t know how important it was. So, I started researching!”
What she discovered gave her confidence about the future of her country, even during “an election year and with COVID 19 happening as well”:
“The U.S Constitution protects the rights of American citizens. In our country, the government does not hold us back from being free. We can say or write what we want (unless it’s plagiarism), we can choose our religion, and we can protest things that aren’t fair. The Constitution also gives us the right to vote (but you have to be 18 or older and registered).”
Making certain she did not throw away her shot, Lucy backed up her research with a shout-out to Hamilton and Federalist Papers co-authors James Madison and John Jay, making arguments for the Constitution that resonate with her today.
Wrote one of the judges, an instructor of English and professional writing at Saint Leo University: “The introduction paragraph is so interesting and conversational that I was immediately pulled into the essay and wanted to read more. Great idea to connect Alexander Hamilton to the modern musical and use it to engage the reader.”
Essays by Oakstead Elementary 10-year-olds Derek Knoedler and Britany Fissehaye claimed second and third place, respectively.
Derek extolled the virtues of the Constitution’s “building blocks of our governing system,” creating “checks and balances to ensure that no one has too much power.” He also gave a nod to the framers who realized though their document “was good it wasn’t without its flaws. So, amendments were added to the Constitution to make it better.”
For Bethany, the Constitution is personal. She notes the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, and the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. “No more African Americans like me must live in such a terrible way,” she wrote.
She also exhibited a keen grasp of the United States as a republic:
“When the Constitution says ‘WE THE PEOPLE,’ it’s trying to express that the people have power. Like in the case of voting. First, we have all the power, then we loan a small part of that to the Governors, Senators and Representatives that will be us in the government. So, technically, if they do their job right, we still have the power through voting!”
Essays earning honorable mention were submitted by Saksham Batra, Henry Perez, Heidi Keck, Alyssa Kasubinski (Oakstead), Dequrez Gulley Jr. (Athenian Academy of Technology and the Arts), Kayla Golden, and Ashley Parenton (Longleaf).
“Many of [the essays] moved me deeply (even some that are not in the Top 10),” wrote the Saint Leo instructor, “because of their honesty and fervor.”
“These students should all be commended for being brave enough to enter a contest; that takes guts. I often tell students that it takes courage simply to write. Just think – before their act of bravery, all that existed was a blank page. Because they dared to write, words now exist that never before existed and may never exist again. That is saying something!”
Competition sponsor Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Esq., could not agree more.
“Congratulations to all who entered in this extremely difficult year,” she said. “The courage of so many young people choosing to write and compete when so much seems at loose ends gives me confidence that the rock of our republic – our Constitution – will make sure we endure.”